Hatcher v. Clemens et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION as set forth in following order. Signed by District Judge R Leon Jordan on 11/8/17. (c/m to plaintiff)(ABF)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
F/N/U CLEMENS, Deputy; F/N/U
RAMSEY, Deputy; F/N/U MKAMEY,
Deputy; and F/N/U GRAY, Deputy,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff Shamsiddeen Hatcher, a former state prisoner, brings this pro se civil rights
complaint for declaratory relief and monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 1]. The four
Defendants--Sullivan County, Tennessee Deputy Sheriffs Clemens, Ramsey, MKamey and
Gray—are sued only in their official capacities [Id. at 3].
Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis reflects that he is penniless and that he
thus lacks the financial wherewithal to pay the civil filing fee of three hundred fifty dollars
($350.00) [Doc. 3]. Therefore, his application [Id.] is GRANTED. See McGore v. Wrigglesworth,
114 F.3d 601, 612 (6th Cir. 1997) (explaining that, after an inmate is released from confinement,
his ability to pay is determined like any non-prisoner), overruled on other grounds by Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).
According to the allegations in the complaint, in the late evening hours on June 20, 2015,
Defendants subjected him to retaliatory, excessive force in a mop closet at the Sullivan County
Detention Center after he refused to remove his clothing [Doc. 1]. Defendants also violated
Plaintiff’s right of privacy by filming his genital area with a hand held video camera. Plaintiff
asserts that Defendants’ alleged conduct violated his rights under the First and Eighth Amendments
to the United States Constitution. For the alleged violation of his rights, Plaintiff asks for ninehundred, ninety-nine thousand and ninety-nine dollars ($999,999.00) in damages, as well as a
declaratory judgment [Id. at 3].
The Court must screen complaints filed by non prisoners who are proceeding in forma
pauperis. McGore, 114 F.3d at 608 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Dismissal is required if
complaints are frivolous or malicious, if they fail to state a claim for relief, or if they ask for
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
In performing this task, the Court recognizes that pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases
are construed charitably and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993); Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413,
416 (6th Cir. 1996). Even so, the complaint must be sufficient “to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face,” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), which simply
means the factual content pled by a plaintiff must permit a court “to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The standard articulated in Twombly and Iqbal “governs
dismissals for failure state a claim under [§§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)] because the
relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6).” Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468,
470–71 (6th Cir. 2010).
In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must establish that he was
deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. See Black v. Barberton
Citizens Hosp., 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1998); see also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d
220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (“Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a
right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere.”).
The Court examines the complaint under these guidelines.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Timeliness of Claims
Plaintiff complains about the treatment to which he was subjected on June 20, 2015. For
the purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, state statutes of limitations apply to determine the timeliness of
claims. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 268-69 (1985), superseded by statute on other grounds
as recognized in Jones v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 541 U.S. 369, 377-80 (2004). The one-year
statute of limitations period contained in Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104(a) applies to civil rights
claims arising in Tennessee. See Berndt v. Tennessee, 796 F.2d 879, 883 (6th Cir. 1986); see also
Porter v. Brown, 289 F. App’x. 114, 116, 2008 WL 3838227, at *2 (6th Cir. 2008) (“[O]ur
precedent has long made clear that the limitations period for § 1983 actions arising in Tennessee
is the one-year limitations provision found in Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104(a).”). Ordinarily, the
statute begins to run when a plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury upon which his
action is based. See Eidson v. State of Tenn. Dep’t of Children’s Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 636 (6th
Cir. 2007); Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262, 273 (6th Cir. 1984).
Plaintiff would have known of any injury he incurred from the violation of his
constitutional rights on June 20, 2015. This means that Plaintiff would have had one year from
that date, i.e., June 20, 2016, to file this instant § 1983 action. Plaintiff filed this case on April 19,
2017 [Doc. 1], some ten months after the statute lapsed.
Therefore, the applicable statute of limitations bars his claims, and they are due to be
dismissed for failure to state a claim. See Jones, 549 U.S. at 215 (noting that “[i]f the allegations,
for example, show that relief is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the complaint is
subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim . . . .”). Furthermore, claims that are time-barred
under the relevant statute of limitations are frivolous. See Dellis v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 257 F.3d
508, 511 (6th Cir. 2001).
There is another reason why this action cannot advance: Plaintiff has failed to state a claim
against Defendants in their official capacities.
Suits against officers in their official capacities under § 1983 are equated with suits against
the governmental entity itself, Barber v. City of Salem, Ohio, 953 F.2d 232, 237 (6th Cir. 1992),
and “generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an
officer is an agent.” Monell v. New York City Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 55 (1978);
see also Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003) (observing that an official-capacity suit
proceeds as though a plaintiff had sued the governmental entity a defendant represents). Indeed,
if a plaintiff is awarded damages in an official-capacity suit, he must look to the governmental
entity to satisfy such a judgment. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1995).
The governmental entity Defendants represent is Sullivan County, Tennessee. To succeed
in a suit against Sullivan County, Plaintiff must show that its policy, practice, or custom has caused
him to sustain a constitutional injury. Monell, 436 U.S.at 691. In other words, to state a § 1983
claim against Sullivan County, Plaintiff must: (1) identify the policy, (2) connect the policy to
Sullivan County itself, and (3) demonstrate that his injury was incurred because of the execution
of that policy. Garner v. Memphis Police Dep’t, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993). While an inmate
need not plead a theory of municipal liability with particularity, Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty.
Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168-69 (1993), still he must give fair
notice of the claim to Defendants. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Plaintiff’s complaint does not give fair notice to Defendants that they might be held liable
in their official capacities. This is so because Plaintiff fails to identify a policy to subject inmates
to excessive force or to infringe on their privacy rights. Because Plaintiff has not alleged the
existence of such a policy, not tied such a policy to Sullivan County, and has not established that
the policy caused his injury, he fails to state a claim against Defendants in their official capacities.
This case will be DISMISSED as untimely filed and for failure to state a claim against
Defendants in their official capacities. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The Court has carefully reviewed
this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) and CERTIFIES that any appeal from this action
would not be taken in good faith. See Fed. R.App. P. 24(a)(3).
AN APPROPRIATE ORDER WILL ENTER.
s/ Leon Jordan
United States District Judge
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